Monday, November 14, 2011

"does [free speech] also allow a school administration to express a preference for a certain race...?"

Commentor RickK has some good questions about Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. To what extent do they apply to school administrators?

RickK:

If your definition of free speech includes allowing a school adminstration to express a preference for a particular religion, does it also allow a school administration to express a preference for a certain race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, ancestry or other personal attribute?
Heck, RickK, let's not waste our time on school administrators. Let's consider the bigger government officials-- presidents, senators, congressmen. And remember that we're talking about Constitutional rights, not about whether it's morally right to do something, or whether it's legal under statutory law, or whether it's permitted by regulatory diktat.

So let's consider:

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a certain race...

Hmmm...

Have you ever heard, RickK, of affirmative action?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a gender...

Have you ever heard, RickK, of the Department of Health and Human Services' support of the Women's Health Initiative?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a sexual orientation... 
Have you ever heard, RickK, of innumerable municipalities' sponsorship for Gay Pride Parades and of health clinics provided for gay men?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a culture...
 Have you ever heard, RickK, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?

You get the point, RickK. "Expression of preference for _________" is one of the most common things that the government does, from the president down to the homeroom teacher. It's inevitable in a huge pluralistic society.

And countless government officials express preference for religion: "God Bless America", which every politician says at the end of every speech, expresses preference for religions that call the Deity "God" rather than Allah, Thor, Nature, Me (atheism), etc.

And ya' know, RickK, it's all perfectly Constitutional. The purpose of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause is not to separate government from religion. The Framers were smart enough to understand that the government can't be separated from religion, because in our country We the People are the government and We the People are a diverse mostly religious people.

So the purpose of the First Amendment religion clauses is to get government out of the business of censoring religion. That's the obvious purpose of the Free Exercise Clause, and it is the purpose of the Establishment Clause as well, because an official national Church would tend to suppress the expression of religious beliefs.

The purpose of the First Amendment is freedom, not censorship.

RickK:
If the school can post a prayer, does a teacher have the right, by your rules, to post the 10 Commandments in their classroom?
Yep. The Supreme Court has the Decalogue on its frieze. Why can't Ms. Perry's 3rd grade class have it on their wall?
Does a science teacher have the right to post the Genesis creation story on the wall behind their desk?
Sure. Unless I missed the "Congress shall make no law allowing a science teacher to post Genesis... " clause to the First Amendment.
Do that teacher have the right to jot under the text of Genesis "This is the TRUE story of human origins, whatever we may discuss in class."
Probably, yes. What the teacher may not do is mandate assent to Genesis. The teacher may not take points off on the final exam if the student contradicts Genesis. The reason is that compulsory assent to a religious doctrine is a hallmark of an Establishment of Religion, which is the one aspect of religious expression-- and Establishment is the only one-- that the Constitution prohibits.
Just how far does your noble defense of free speech in public schools extend?
Good question. I hate censorship. Let me elaborate: I hate censorship. I don't like being told to 'shut up or else', and I don't tell other people to 'shut up or else'. Fortunately, the Founders hated censorship as much as I do, so they wrote the First Amendment. It got the federal government out of the censorship business. That was the whole point.

This is how school administrators' "expression of preference" should be handled:

It almost never has anything to do with the Constitution. It's simply a matter of local decisions made by local school boards elected by local people. The normal process of curriculum development and school administration are the appropriate processes for determining such matters. Not federal judges and federal lawsuits that financially devastate schools and harm kids and fill the coffers of the ACLU with taxpayers' money that parents paid to educate their kids not pay @*!##!! lawyers.

There should be a spectrum of expression in schools. Schools in San Francisco probably wouldn't have any prayers. Schools in Atlanta probably would. Schools in a heavily Orthodox Jewish community might have a prayer that has a bit of a Jewish spin. Schools in Louisville might have a tiny Catholic spin. Schools in Dearborn might have a little Islamic spin.

Fine with me. As long as there's no compulsion. As long as there's no Establishment.

I'm not afraid of a little prayer, mine or someone else's. I like freedom, and I don't mind other people's freedom. And I really like the First Amendment.

And I think it's execrable to use that succinct work of wisdom and genius-- the charter of our freedom-- as a pretext for censorship.

31 comments:

  1. It gets extremely sad (or ridiculous) when you consider the fact that all religions are made-up stories.

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  2. Michael,

    As an Australian, my understanding is that Affirmative Action is OK, provided it's just providing preference to a minority that has historically been disadvantaged, by adding points to a quantitative score used to determine admission or employment. It's OK to add 5 points for an Afro-American for admission to a medical school. It wouldn't be OK to restrict 16% of the medical school places for Afro-Americans.

    A teacher displaying the Ten Commandments or Genesis in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech. He or she is making a religious statement in a secular situation, and that's an infringement of the First Amendment, which has been confirmed in several court cases, so you're going up against the Constitution and the Courts, so your opinion loses.

    It isn't unreasonable to have appointments in certain situations which aren't fair and not open to everyone who would like to apply. In Britain bishoprics are political appointments because the CoE is a state church with its head being the reigning monarch. You'd hope that a new bishop wouldn't be an atheist. The present Archbishop of Canterbury is so wishy-washy, he might as well be. You'd also want a women's health counsellor to be a woman too.

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  3. @bach:

    [A teacher displaying the Ten Commandments or Genesis in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech. He or she is making a religious statement in a secular situation, and that's an infringement of the First Amendment]

    In what way is the display of the Ten Commandments an Establishment of Religion? How can a display of anything be the adoption of an official national church?

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  4. @bach:

    [A teacher displaying the Ten Commandments or Genesis in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech. He or she is making a religious statement in a secular situation, and that's an infringement of the First Amendment]

    Why do you hate America?

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  5. Michael,

    How do you get to the assumption that I hate America (I don't) from my comment that a teacher displaying the Ten Commandments in the classroom is infringing the First Amendment of the American Constitution as confirmed by several judgements in American courts.

    Besides your ignorance of the American Constitution and your distorted and simplistic logic ... If it's possible to call it logic.

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  6. @bach:

    [Why do you hate America?]

    That commentor wasn't me.

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  7. @bach...
    A teacher displaying the Ten Commandments or Genesis in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech. He or she is making a religious statement in a secular situation, and that's an infringement of the First Amendment, which has been confirmed in several court cases, so you're going up against the Constitution and the Courts, so your opinion loses.

    Let's rephrase that:

    A teacher displaying Darwin's “Tree Of Life” or Haeckel’s embryos in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech. He or she is making a religious statement in a secular situation, and that's an infringement of the First Amendment, which has been confirmed in several court cases, so you're going up against the Constitution and the Courts, so your opinion loses.

    Mutatis mutandis!

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  8. @Pépé:

    Nice troll, but it's too obvious. Sure, there are fundamentalists who really believe that evolution is a religion, but you shouldn't have mentioned Haeckel's embryos, because it shows you're trying too hard to parody the most retarded creationists.

    Anyway, although your troll wasn't very subtle, I give you 6/10 because I'm sure someone will bait.

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  9. (Sorry, I obviously meant "bite" instead of "bait".)

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  10. ...but you shouldn't have mentioned Haeckel's embryos...

    What about a drawing of Nebraska man? Or maybe a nice clay mock up of Tiktaalik?

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  11. Pepe's priest with a woodyNovember 14, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    There's a good little creationist, Pepe. Maybe your padre will allow you to go to third base!

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  12. @Pépé:

    You forgot Piltdown man.


    It's funny: when I was taught about evolution, I never heard the words "Haeckel", "Nebraska" and "Piltdown". I first heard of them while reading about creationism on American websites.

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  13. @James:

    [It's funny: when I was taught about evolution, I never heard the words "Haeckel", "Nebraska" and "Piltdown".]

    Why would you hear about the frauds? I'm sure kids now don't hear about Archeaoraptor. And I'm sure the word "Ponzi" didn't come up a lot at Bernie Madoff's office either.

    One of the many services that creationists and IDers have provided is to insist on memory and honesty in the quite sleazy history of evolutionary biology.

    And I'm mentioning Haeckel's embryos. They were transparent frauds.

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  14. Michael,

    Sorry. I misread late last night.

    Archaeoraptor was recognized as a fraud by scientists. We have real fossils demonstrating the transition between theropod dinosaurs and avian dinosaurs. Archaeoraptor was published first in a non peer reviewed magazine, the National Geographic..

    Haeckel's embryos weren't transparent frauds. They were drawings of what he thought he saw. He had a theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny so he saw more similarities between embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals than exist, although they are very similar.

    It's an illustration of the fact that humans can see something and misinterpret it, similar to the way I misread someone using a name similar to yours. Another example would be Galileo when he observed the Rings of Saturn. He observed them for a long time and eventually decided that Saturn wasn't round but had two 'ears'. It was only in the following century that the nature of Saturn's rings were explained and the reason for their changing shape determined.

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  15. One of the many services that creationists and IDers have provided is to insist on memory and honesty in the quite sleazy history of evolutionary biology.

    This statement is incredibly ironic and moronic.

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  16. "One of the many services that creationists and IDers have provided is to insist on memory and honesty in the quite sleazy history of evolutionary biology.

    This statement is incredibly ironic and moronic."

    Indeed it is. Egnor will say anything to protect his death cult of corrupt and deranged pedophiles because he thinks they have his ticket to heaven.

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  17. @bachfiend
    It's an illustration of the fact that humans can see something and misinterpret it, similar to the way I misread someone using a name similar to yours. Another example would be Galileo when he observed the Rings of Saturn...

    Here is another example:

    A teacher displaying the Ten Commandments or Genesis in the classroom isn't engaging in a preference or free speech...

    Errare humanum est...

    @troy

    ...sed perseverare diabolicum!

    @anon and other trolls...

    damnant quod non intellegunt!

    Get an education, for God (or Darwin) sake!

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  18. Pépé, have you ever herped so hard that you derped?

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  19. @James etc...
    It's funny: when I was taught about evolution, I never heard the words "Haeckel", "Nebraska" and "Piltdown"...

    What about Tiktaalik?

    If this word is alien to you, maybe you just dreamt you were attending a course on evolution, but actually you were in the macramé course.

    Damn weed!

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  20. @anon a.k.a. the derp

    Please write a 10,000 words essay on the following subject:

    The more things change, the more they remain the same, though the fundamental similarities are often masked by superficially differing veneers of terminological and technological refinement.

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  21. Why would Pepe recommend an education while it's obvious he has received so little himself?

    Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum

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  22. @troy
    Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum

    Have you personally verified the truth of this maxim?

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  23. anon a.k.a. the derpNovember 14, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    What about Tiktaalik?

    If this word is alien to you, maybe you just dreamt you were attending a course on evolution, but actually you were in the macramé course.


    Or maybe I was taught about evolution when I was in high school several years ago, when Tiktaalik hadn't been discovered.

    Damn weed!
    I have never smoked weed. Oh wait, I'm a godless atheist, therefore I'm a drug addict.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same, though the fundamental similarities are often masked by superficially differing veneers of terminological and technological refinement.

    Cool story bro.

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  24. @troy
    Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum

    What about the other half of humanity?

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  25. @troy
    Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum

    Is this what you have in mind?

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  26. @anon a.k.a. the derp said...

    Tiktaalik hadn't been discovered.

    Invented?

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  27. anon a.k.a. the derpNovember 14, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    @Pépé

    Invented?

    A part of me wants to believe that you're kidding, but I fear that you actually believe what you write.

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  28. @anon a.k.a. the derp said...

    Can you prove me wrong?

    I can make a clay example of a rat changing into a goat and have it peer reviewed.

    When anything goes, well, anything goes!

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  29. I can make a clay example of a rat changing into a goat

    Sure, you can.

    and have it peer reviewed.

    I seriously doubt it.

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  30. One of the many services that creationists and IDers have provided is to insist on memory and honesty in the quite sleazy history of evolutionary biology.

    Name a single 'fraud" of evolutionary biology that was uncovered by creationists. Piltdown, Nebraska, Haeckel, Archaeoraptor - all of them were exposed by scientists.

    Creationists and the Discovery Institute have contributed nothing of value to human knowledge except serving as a continuing example that some people prefer mythology to reality.

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